Return to Treasure Island
Crown Publishers, 403pp, $24
From the very beginning to its violent but satisfying ending, this book made me feel like a kid again. The protagonists are youngsters, themselves...somewhere in their teens, I would guess. "Natty" the instigator is the fearless daughter of Long John Silver. As the tale begins, she rows up the Thames from London to the inn and pub that Jim Hawkins owns and runs with his son, Jim (the narrator). Her mission is to inveigle the boy to steal the map that her father has told her, is in the possession of the elder Hawkins. Although he doesn't know it yet, young Jim is utterly smitten and agrees to the theft and to join the proposed adventure to reclaim the treasure abandoned on a Caribbean island by their fathers.
Much soul searching ensues. The midnight deed is done and the two young people row back to London where Jim meets Natty's father, Long John Silver, now pitifully crippled and bed-ridden.
Without further adieu, that is, the very next day the two young people are aboard the Nightingale. Then there is the sea voyage across the Atlantic, into the Caribbean and on to the island with much salt and spray and hardly any foreboding.
The mood of the tale darkens when it is discovered by the good folk of the Nightingale that survivors from the original treasure-search vessel are still alive and wreaking havoc on the otherwise luscious tropical island and its noble natives. Blood is let but perseverance furthers. The silver is found and the degenerate scoundrels are in retreat, when...
A man for all seasons literary, author, Andrew Motion has served as poet laureate of the United Kingdom for ten years and was knighted for his accomplishments as poet, critic, novelist, biographer, professor and editor. At first, it seemed strange that a serious man of such wide accomplishment would apply his talents to a "sequel" to an, albeit classic, adventure yarn written in 1883 by a Scot, no less. The answer is right there on every page...for the fun of it. Motion has modified his language and vocabulary to write in an authentic Stevenson-ly way and is ear is acutely tuned to the Victorian cadence.
The pleasure derived from reading this literary doppelganger must mirror the pleasure of writing it. The Victorian sensibilities of physical and emotional restraint of the protagonists are pitted against the degenerate and blood-thirsty bad guys...survivors of the original quest for the treasure. Motion has created a totally engrossing Victorian morality tale, awash with action...an apt tribute to his classic literary inspiration.